From an Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome literature fans to Larks Fiction Magazine! Tonight we bring you the very best in literature from the rising stars of the language arts world. Join us for an exploration of the human condition through art.
In news our back log of ebook publications should be begin to clear out this week. You should see two more editions to our Smashwords store soon.
Also we have brought on another editor to help read through our submissions. As of now we are current on all of our readings. Acceptance and rejection letters will still take a little while to filter out. We hope to be caught up by the end of October.
All the best,
By Deng Xiang
Since the inception of life, I looked through windows
Carved from my skull, a cavity lies deep
Like an abyss, which cannot be supplanted
By platinum and stainless steel,
Or priceless diamond and gems.
Nothing comes so natural,
So profound, and the heart learns to evince
Its emotions aloud through them.
Your voice unravels its meaning too
As it complements every nuance
Of your biological movements.
Show what you got. Let your eyes
Tell the tenor of your understanding;
Let your eyes augment the flaws you have,
As where you stand
Is how everything falls
Into homogeneous places.
About the Poet;
Deng Xiang speaks, writes articles, poems and stories while sharing his passion for all things erudite and salient. Mainly, his subsistence comprises of highbrow literature from chemistry to pure mathematics. His appetite for knowledge never ceases, even if he got an accomplishment worth showing off.
Under a Marble Sky
Photo by Daniel J. Pool
First You'll Have to Learn not to Breathe
by Adam Hoss
“First, Ms. Burke, you'll have to learn not to breathe.”
Pedro Guerra sat cramped in the plastic discomfort of the waiting room. All thirty seats were taken.
An obese Asian man with nacho dust in his mustache bounced his knee in the opposite chair. Two rows over, a freckled girl stared at a magazine page she hadn't flipped in hours and a black-haired child drew crayon spaceships on the wall while his mother slept. Key rings and checkbooks rattled in shaky hands. The elderly receptionist forced a smile.
“Now, you'll try to breathe,” the doctor continued. He spoke to a woman in a wheelchair. “This is natural, Ms. Burke. Absent the physical activity of breathing, the brain thinks it's dying. Patients have gone as far as dislocating their jaws. Rest assured, the setbacks are temporary.”
The brochure recommended practicing how not to breathe with eyes closed in an empty, peaceful place. Pedro had the brochure memorized.
“Can you believe some folks get the operation reversed?” the Asian man asked.
Pedro stared at the white tiles between his feet until he realized the man had directed the question at him.
“Oh,” Pedro muttered. “Yeah. I don't get that either.”
The man grinned.
Pedro had mangled the brochure to shreds in his fist.
“Do not attempt to walk unassisted within the initial twenty-four hours,” the doctor continued.
The doctor's chiseled physique was evident even through his lab coat. His pale blue eyes, perfect symmetry and adolescent face could woo royalty and lead the celibate astray. Despite her mask of bandages, the wheelchair-bound woman also glistened, an ageless wax angel whose eyes alone could incite madness, cult followings or world war.
Pedro knew better.
“You'll frequently stumble in the first week,” the doctor said. “This is natural. The brain needs time to adjust to its new equipment.”
The brochure suggested two weeks of physical therapy on an outpatient basis. The brochure provided directions to local facilities. The brochure said that proper training can condition the brain to believe anything.
“The name's Wei,” the Asian man said.
Pedro knew his life would change before he read the e-mail. The subject line was subtle. Screams of “YOU'VE WON” are red flags for fraud. But when Pedro saw the clinic's name in the inbox, he knew.
Had the message arrived before the accident, Pedro's mother would be here instead. In cases such as Mrs. Guerra's, the lottery system passes rights to next of kin.
Pedro's father had also won the procedure. A day later, he promptly fled the country and had not been in touch.
“Don't have a name?” Wei asked. “Fine. I'll call you Zeppelin, then.”
“Christ, kid. You're a wreck,” he said. “Zeppelin. As in, the band. It's on your t-shirt.”
Panels of curved glass filtered sunlight against white walls. The words “PATIENTS AND STAFF ONLY” flanked double doors beside the reception desk. A sign to its right read “Reminder: The Patient Has Thirty Days Within Which To Reverse The Procedure. Changes Made Beyond This Point…”
Ms. Burke's wheelchair obscured the rest.
“Now,” the doctor told her, “you'll have the opportunity to select an approximation of your original voice. Most patients, however, opt for an enhancement. We want perfect. We're programmed that way. And here at Marinetti Labs, we deliver.”
Pedro didn't tell Jennifer about the procedure. Not yet.
“So, Zeppelin, you goin' under the knife on the company dime?”
“It's right here,” Pedro mumbled, fumbling in his pockets.
“For Chris's sake. Do you understand the English language? Comprende Ingles? Entiende? Te gusta tacos, hombre? I am asking you if your insurance is covering the operation.”
“Oh,” Pedro says. “Uh, yeah. It is.”
“Lucky dog,” Wei said. “I had to empty my life savings. Worth it, though.”
“Hell yeah it's worth it,” snapped a black man sitting still as stone.
Microscopic disclaimers blanketed the brochure's backside. Statistical anomalies, the brochure called them. Still, Pedro had them memorized. Heat sinks can fail. Circuits can melt the silicone. The brain may reject the wiring, though the brochure made abundantly clear that, in such cases, Marinetti bears no responsibility. Rarer still are hospital-borne Trojans, worms, macros and remote hacks. The brochure is legally required to print these warnings, and the patient is legally required to accept the risks.
The disclaimers weren't what Pedro hid from Jennifer.
Ricardo Guerra worked a landing strip on the USS Kurzweil. Later, he worked a keyboard and mouse in a skyscraper downtown. When the random lottery selected him, he didn't tell his family either.
After the accident, Pedro knew why.
Instead, Ricardo wrote a letter. It began “I am sorry,” said something about trust, and ended “Love.”
“You know that they say the operation doesn't only prevent broken bones, but broken hearts?” the black man asked. “Yup. No more emotional bullshit. Zero. I say it's worth it.”
The doctor lectured Ms. Burke on muscle memory therapy. The brochure abbreviated it MMT. Pedro knew the words before the doctor spoke them. MMT was experimental due to unsettled theoretical differences that were currently impeding research. The patient can risk the therapy now, or opt for a return voucher when the technology is stable.
Ricardo left his return voucher behind.
The brightly-colored ticket sits alone on an oak table in a four-bedroom cape cod on Fletcher Street, where Pedro Guerra discovered Playboy, first learned what happened to Grandma, cried into a dial tone and laughed and loved and fucked and felt a great evil boiling inside him as he shoved his father against the wall during an argument over a tenth-grade report card.
A single shred of neon green: the only evidence Ricardo Guerra existed, that he once wrote a letter that ended “Love” and that he once learned not to breathe.
“Listen, Zeppelin,” Wei said. “I didn't mean anything by that 'taco' shit I said. I feel like a jackass. I'm sorry, man.”
Pedro watched the doctor stuff a neon slip into Ms. Burke's purse.
Did she also write a letter? Did it end with “Love?” And who is this hunched, gray man with a pink tie at her side? Are they afraid? Aroused? In love? Are they here only after an accident? Does a great evil boil inside them too?
The doctor talked as Pink Tie pushed Ms. Burke aside.
Yes, Pedro decided. They're killers. Pink Tie held the gun. Ms. Burke forged the note. They made it look like suicide. Upon approval of insurance, Marinetti Labs made the investigation disappear.
“Think she'll be back?” the black man asked.
The remainder of the sign Ms. Burke had been hiding read “Come At Unknown Risks.”
“It's insane, right?” the black man asked. “The people who get it reversed, I mean. It's like, what the hell? Think about it. Perfect vision. Six pack abs. Orgasms beefed up beyond belief. An inability to feel fear. Seriously. Look it up. No more sore throats, no heart attacks, none of that bullshit, man. I mean, this shit's been scientifically proven and peer reviewed in, like, thousands of labs, so you know it's true. Look it up.”
“They say it changes you,” Pedro said.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I don't know,” Pedro answered. “But that's what the people that get it reversed say.”
Yes, the setbacks are temporary. The brochure said that. Pedro had the brochure memorized long before the accident.
But every year, for reasons unknown to Marinetti Labs and the black man and the Pink Tie, patients revert to their imperfect, fragile deformities, their bruised flesh and scars and hairline fractures, their sexual shortcomings, their petty longings for love and sleep, their addictions, their arthritis, their diagnoses and payment plans and lymph nodes and finite fuses burning bright in their hearts.
“Wei Lee?” called an orange-haired nurse.
Fluorescent lights on the black man's glasses looked like UFOs, Pedro thought.
“Alright, fellas,” Wei said. “I'll keep the table warm. Oh, and Zeppelin, sorry again about the whole taco thing. I wasn't thinkin' straight.”
Wei winked and followed the nurse. The black man crossed his legs, uninterested in further conversation. Tensely, Pedro shoved the brochure's remains into his jeans pocket, checked the time on his cell phone, felt for the reassuring texture of his insurance card, and closed his eyes.
“Last, Ms. Burke,” the doctor said, “you'll have to learn not to panic when you realize nothing's beating in your chest.”
About the Author;
I teach Rhetoric and Composition at Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio, hold a Master's degree in linguistics, and, in addition to my love of letters, harbor a borderline obsession with obscure, indigenous languages. I currently live in Sandsuky, Ohio.
Famous Last Words
“After I’m finished with this last bounty, we can be together.” Maahes said as he stroked the purple hair of a very young girl.
“Famous last words.” The purple haired girl named Rachel said.
Maahes stood up. He was tall and scrawny, but his body was completely robotic from his elbows to his shoulders. Rachel stood up beside Maahes and pulled off his jacket reveling the robotic body-parts.
“I wish you could be more positive.” Maahes said as he picked up a gun
from the ground and attached it to his shoulder.
from the ground and attached it to his shoulder.
“I’m sorry Maahes. It’s just...” Rachel helped Maahes snap the gun into place. “I wish you could get the procedure done now so my father would let us get married.”
Maahes brushed his hand across Rachel’s face. “The procedure can’t be done without money, Rachel. Cloning and growing body-parts is expensive, not to mention the cost of surgery, and we have to eat once we are married too.”
Rachel stood up on her toes and kissed Maahes on the cheek. “Well just be careful, okay?”
Maahes nodded in compliance. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
A month later Rachel heard a knock at the door. Hoping that it was Maahes, she rushed over to open the door, and there he stood. Maahes looked unharmed from the recent bounty, but very tired. Rachel hugged him.
“Maahes! You’re back!” Rachel said as she embraced him.
“What are you doing here?” A raspy voice from a dark corner of the room said.
“I’m sorry sir. I just wanted to let your daughter know I’m safe,” Maahes replied.
A gray haired man walked out into the light. He wore a military jacket over his aging but muscular torso and was puffing away at the last part of a cigar. “I know you’re sorry cyborg. All of your kind are sorry for what they did to us humans.” The man turned to the side, reviling his missing right arm.
“Dad stop!” Rachel said.
“No Rachel it’s fine, I was just leaving anyway. I’m going back to Earth for the surgery, and when I come back I won’t be a cyborg anymore.” Maahes said, then turned his back to them and walked away.
“No one’s safe with you around cyborg!” Rachel's father shouted after him.
Rachel slammed the door. “Dad! That war of yours has been over a long time. Don’t you think it’s time to put the past behind you?”
Her father sat down and put his cigar out. “Dear, it’s not just the war, it’s him. He’s dangerous, even if he’s not a cyborg. For Pete’s sake Rachel, do you know what bounty hunters do? They kill people for money!”
Rachel sighed. “No dad he just delivers people for money. There’s a big difference.”
“I don’t care. The man is still dangerous and too old for you.” He said as Rachel stormed off. “If not for his cybernetic body-parts I would chase him off with more than words.” Rachel’s father mumbled.
A few months had gone by when Rachel answered another knock at the door. “Maahes!” Rachel hugged him, feeling his arms and shoulders.“It’s been done. Hasn’t it?”
Maahes took off his jacket, reveling the new flesh that replaced his machine parts. “I did it Rachel! Now we can be together!”
“Not so fast, son.” A raspy voice said. “Rachel. Step aside!” Rachel’s father said as he ran toward Maahes dressed in his full military uniform.
“Dad no!” Rachel screamed as her father punched Maahes in the face.
“Not so tough now are you cyborg?” Rachel’s father said as he pushed Maahes out of the doorway then punched him again, this time in the chest. Rachel’s father pushed his daughter inside as Maahes feel to the ground, holding his chest.
“Now stay away from her you miserable...cyborg!” Rachel’s father said and then slammed the door.
Chad lives in Long Beach, California and loves to read and write fiction when he is not enjoying the cinema or a fine cheeseburger. He has also been published in Farther Stars Than These.
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